The Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines' most recent ancestor was Comacchio Group Royal Marines.
Comacchio Company Royal Marines became operational at RM Condor, Arbroath on 1 May 1980 and, under the command of Commandant General Royal Marines (CGRM) in London. It was responsible for the protection of nuclear weapons in static sites and in transit and for the provision of reaction forces to counter terrorist incidents on offshore installations or ships at sea.
There is little to document how the name for the new company was chosen or who actually chose it. At the time of origination, four of the original five commando units were in operation, 40, 41, 42 and 45. It would have seemed logical to call the new company 43 Commando Royal Marines but as it would not be able to deploy for world-wide operations it was felt it could not be classified as a commando unit. It was therefore decided that the new company would have very close links with 43 Commando Royal Marines and would take on many of 43 Commando's old traditions, including its red and gold colour lanyard. The name Comacchio come from a lake in Northern Italy where in April 1945, 43 Royal Marines Commando fought an arduous battle against a well prepared enemy and where Corporal Tom Hunter was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
The Early Years
After a study directed by CGRM it was concluded that Comacchio Company Royal Marines would benefit from an uplift in manpower. The increased, which totalled 8 x Officers, 1 x Warrant Officer 1st Class, 1 x Warrant Officer 2nd Class, 12 x Senior Non Commissioned Officers and 135 x Cpl/Mnes resulted in a revised organisation of Comacchio Company Royal Marines with an overall complement of 424. These increases were implemented by 1 April 1982 and were to be reviewed one year later.
With the increase of manpower and in the interest of consistency it was decided that the existing 8 rifle troops would be split into 2 separate companies. Each company would assume the responsibility for one of the specific tasks of Comacchio Company. Once again resurrecting its links with 43 Commando, O and P Royal Marines Companies were chosen. It was decided that O Company would be responsible for the OILSAFE operations, and P Company would be responsible for the protection of the UK's nuclear deterrent. It was felt that the manpower would be split evenly between the 2 tasks but it quickly became evident that the majority of the manpower would be required for the nuclear protection duties.
With the proposed formation of the 2 new companies within Comacchio Company, it was decided that the name of Comacchio Company should be changed to Comacchio Group Royal Marines with effect from 1 November 1983 with 2 separate companies O and P.
It is known that the OILSAFE operations continued and expanded to cover maritime counter terrorist (MCT) tasks worldwide. This involved counter-terrorist operations against ships as well as oil and gas installations. In its wider role, the MCT force undertook exercises worldwide including Norway, USA and Cyprus and matured into a most effective and respected organisation. Live operations were conducted/supported although the classification of this document precludes further detail.
The nuclear protection role of the Group continued to develop but on 28 July 1987, Comacchio Group Royal Marines lost the MCT mission. Following a study into the centralisation of the Royal Marines Maritime Counter Terrorist (MCT) forces, approval was given for elements of Comacchio Group Royal Marines to move from Royal Marines Condor to Royal Marines Poole and form part of the Special Boat Squadron (SBS); sub units of the SBS were called squadrons and existing SB sections were called troops. M Squadron was formed and was responsible for the MCT tasks formerly carried out by O Company of Comacchio Group Royal Marines. From this date onwards, Comacchio Group ceased to have any MCT responsibility but retained its main task of safe-guarding Britain's nuclear deterrent.
1 September 1992 saw a dramatic change in the size and shape of Comacchio Group Royal Marines. Previously each company had consisted of 2 troops without a company commander. Now each company had a company commander, CSM and 4 rifle troops. The Group had also expanded from 2 to 3 companies, R Company being the latest addition.
The Group continued to carry out a varied and interesting training cycle in addition to meeting the operational requirement at Royal Naval Arms Depot Coulport and Faslane. This included the on-going programme of biannual exchange visits with the United States Marine Corps Security Force Battalion (Ex TARTAN EAGLE) and exercising in the West Indies with the Regional Security System forces (Ex TRADEWINDS).
Creation of Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines
In March 2001 Comacchio Group RM was renamed Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines. This reflected the new diversity of the Group's activities and the relocation of the Group from RM Condor, Arbroath to Her Majesty's Naval Base, Clyde. A structure of O, P and R Rifle Squadrons and HQ Squadron was also adopted.
In March 2004 the Group undertook a number of changes to reflect its evolving role which saw P Squadron renamed as S Squadron. In April 2004 the Group completed a further manning uplift to 533 personnel to enable the maintenance of these additional tasks.